Journal reminds duo of connection to Earth

After four months of slumber, the world is waking up.

April 1 — The two raccoons were out on the riverbank again this morning. They must have a den in one of the fallen trees. It’s the fourth or fifth time we’ve seen them in the same area in the last two weeks.

From the time my son Steven was 3 years old, he’s been fascinated by nature. It’s something we share … watching a "show" that is constantly unfolding, and never predictable.

Feb. 16 — Steven and I saw something we weren’t expecting when we drove home this afternoon: a flock of five wild turkeys, standing in the middle of the road. We’ve seen them in the trees behind the house before, but never on the road in the middle of the afternoon

By the time he was 5, Steven had inherited another quality from me: He had become a dedicated list maker: What birds have we seen at our feeder? What constellations have we identified? What animal tracks have we discovered?


March 16 — Our owl was active again last night. We first heard him at about 9 o’clock, and he was still hooting at 6:45 in the morning. He’s probably got a nest in the trees along the river; it’s at least the fourth time we’ve heard him in the last 10 days.

We’ve saved those notes, and together they’ve become what we now call our Nature Journal. There’s not another one like it anywhere.

Feb. 17 — We were having supper last night when we spotted something unusual in the trees behind the house. It was nearly dark, but with the binoculars we could clearly see that it was a bald eagle! We watched him until it was too dark to see, but he was still there, in the same place, at 6:30 this morning.

John Muir is the father of the Nature Journal. As the first president of the Sierra Club, Muir’s journals were a record of his personal observations and his ideas for protecting the environment. They inspired his life’s work and millions of people … including us.

April 2 — Steven and I went for a hike along the river this evening. We found the stump of a tree that had been cut down by a beaver.

June 29 — We brought the telescope out last night and got a good view of Saturn and its rings. It was a good night for viewing; the air was clear and even the mosquitoes cooperated

Jan. 13 — The mourning doves have discovered our bird feeder; at one time we had 22 of them eating the seed off the ground at the base of the feeder at one time. Counting 22 mourning doves is not easy!

Our Nature Journal is never going to make a best-seller list, but it’s inspired us to learn more about the world around us.


Most of our observations send us in search of more information: Do mourning doves go south for the winter? When do raccoons have their babies? How many moons does Saturn have?

The "observing" is more important than the "writing," but they make each other better: The more you write, the more detail you see. That leads to more appreciation, and the more you appreciate anything, the more you take care of it.

Ultimately, that’s the goal.

After all, we didn’t inherit Earth from my grandparents — we borrowed it from Steven’s children.

Dan Conradt, a lifelong Mower County resident, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson, and their son.

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